“Let me put this in a way you’ll understand, Penny. You remember how you told me that the Kardashians aren’t real celebrities? Well, geology is the Kardashians of science.”
In this punchline, Sheldon Cooper, a character in the popular TV sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” demonstrates the way in which geology is often overlooked in mainstream science
Those involved with geology at UR, though, naturally have a different perspective of their field, its individual importance, and its connection to other fields of science.
“As humans, we decided that this was chemistry, this was biology, and this was physics. Of course the world doesn’t really work that way—these things are all very interconnected,” geology professor Dustin Trail said. “[In geology classes] it’s a range of students. In geochemistry we have some chemical engineering and chemistry students, and I guess part of that is because in order to make advances in geology, sometimes we have to be chemists, sometimes we’re physicists, and sometimes we’re biologists.”
Trail also emphasized the important research being conducted by University personnel, such as Professor Kessler, who was “instrumental in understanding the methane fluxes after the [Deepwater Horizon] issue that happened” off the Gulf of Mexico, and is now conducting research in Lake Ontario. Professor Trail said the University is very supportive in helping geology research projects get started.
Another geology enthusiast is Alice Bandeian, a senior who entered the University as an environmental science major. After taking a few geology classes during her first two years of college, Bandeian decided to switch her major.
“The major allows me to do all of the things I love: camp, hike, and go into nature all the time,” she said.
Over the summer, Bandeian was able to go to Peru to help a graduate student with his field work as well as collect her own samples for her senior thesis.
“Not many majors allow you to do a research project with data you personally collect from another country,” she said. “The experience was incredible.”
In addition to her time in Peru, Bandeian did a field camp, a requirement to obtain a bachelor of science in geology, through Lehigh University.
In the field camp, she learned “basic and essential geological techniques and knowledge” while traveling across the country to sites she “never knew existed,” camping and making friends along the way.
Travel to diverse regions is not uncommon among geology students.
Junior Sebastian Fearn has done two field seasons while studying at UR. He went to the High Canadian Arctic in the summer of 2015, as well as Botswana, South Africa, and Western Australia this past summer.
“I thought it was really cool—pardon the pun—when we were camping in the Arctic,” Fearn said.
He also mentioned that while camping in Australia they were “at least 100km away from any other person.” There, in the wilderness, he was able to see “one of the greatest night skies.”
Another feature of the geology program appreciated by its students is the low number of students in the major and small class sizes.
“Asking questions in class is super easy and getting help outside of class is too,” junior Susanna Chhibber said.
To prospective geology students, Fearn says, “If you like the outdoors and travel, this major is definitely something that fulfills those needs. It gives you a unique experience in understanding the Earth, and in some cases, other planets.”
Chhibber called UR “the right university for geology,” adding, “We have an amazing department with great faculty and so many research opportunities.”